Middle East

South Sudan armed opposition claims to remove vice president

In this photo released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), children wait to be served with roasted maize in a refugee camp Juba, South Sudan Friday July 22, 2016  . The United Nations refugee agency says thousands of people continue to flee South Sudan over violence between armed groups in the country, stretching the capacity of humanitarian efforts to look after the refugees. 
 ( Isaac Billy UNMISS via AP)

In this photo released by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), children wait to be served with roasted maize in a refugee camp Juba, South Sudan Friday July 22, 2016 . The United Nations refugee agency says thousands of people continue to flee South Sudan over violence between armed groups in the country, stretching the capacity of humanitarian efforts to look after the refugees. ( Isaac Billy UNMISS via AP)  (The Associated Press)

A faction of South Sudan's armed opposition says it has replaced its leader who is also the country's first vice president, Riek Machar, amid uncertainty over his whereabouts.

Machar led a rebellion against President Salva Kiir in December 2013 but signed a peace deal last year, paving the way for him to return as Kiir's deputy.

But Machar fled the capital this month after Kiir's forces bombed his house during clashes that killed hundreds of people. Machar is now in hiding.

Machar's chief of staff, Ezekiel Lol Gatkuoth, said Taban Deng Gai, who had acted as the rebels' chief negotiator, would become first vice president until Machar returns.

Nyarji Roman, a spokesman for Machar's side who is also in hiding, said Saturday the move is a "conspiracy" to overthrow Machar.